A HISTORIAN AT THE ARMY WAR COLLEGE
John A. Bonin, Ph. D.
Professor, Concepts and Doctrine
U.S. Army War College
My name is John Bonin and I am a historian. I have been on the faculty of the United States Army War College for almost twelve years and I received my Ph.D. in history in 2006 from Temple University after ten years as a graduate student. While I don't specifically work as a historian at the War College, my knowledge of history is an asset in all that I do. For my first seven years on the faculty, I was an active duty Colonel and was the Director for Army Planning in the Department of Military Strategy, Plans, and Operations. I am now the civilian Professor of Concepts and Doctrine in the Department of Academic Affairs. My other major duties include serving as a seminar faculty instructor and historian as well as participating as an instructor in electives and other courses conducted here at Carlisle. This spring I will also serve as an instructor for several different courses. In addition, I provide advice to the Department of the Army on its internal organization.
As the War Collegeís Professor of Concepts and Doctrine, I coordinate the review by the faculty of all Joint and Army doctrinal publications and then submit recommended improvements to the preparing authorities. I also inform the faculty on the latest doctrinal publications useful for their courses. In preparation for the congressionally mandated Process for Accreditation of Joint Education, I ensure for the Dean of Academics that our curriculum is based on that the appropriate doctrine. I have recently participated as a member of the Army working groups that revised FM 1, The Army, FM 3-0, Full-Spectrum Operations, and FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency Operations. I also attend the semi-annual Joint Doctrine Conferences and recently provided significant input to Joint Pubs 1, Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States, 3-0, Joint Operations, and 5-0, Joint Operations Planning.
As a faculty instructor, I am completely involved in the War College instruction provided to one of twenty resident course seminars. Each seminar has seventeen students representing all four military services, the reserve components, two international countries, and at least one civilian agency. While it is the Armyís War College, less than one-half of the students are from the Active Army. I serve with one instructor from each of our three teaching departments as part of a seminar teaching team, with myself as the designated seminar historian. I provide faculty advice and the final academic report for three to four of the students and serve as the Project Advisor for two or three others for their major paper, the Strategy Research Project. Every year I also serve as the faculty sponsor for the International Fellow from Romania and provide assistance in their arrival and living arrangements in Carlisle.
As the designated seminar historian, I provide the introductory history lesson and a Gettysburg Staff Ride during the initial Fundamentals of Strategic Thinking. The introductory three hour history lesson is intended to provide our students, almost all of whom are not historians, with some insights into the many types of history and the uses and abuses of history that they may encounter during the coming year. The staff ride is an all day operation in which we travel to the nearby Gettysburg National Battlefield and walk the ground in order to gain an appreciation for some of the timeless aspects of war: leadership, combined arms, personalities, friction, and courage. As one of the Collegeís qualified staff ride historians, I also conduct staff rides during the year to Gettysburg as well as for the Antietam Campaign for other diverse groups ranging from United Nationsí peacekeepers, an Afghani military delegation, or a local college ROTC unit.
Because of my experience and interests I also teach several lessons involving history in three of our core courses. During the Theory of War and Strategy Course we investigate the history of the use of force in the Western World dating back to the Greco-Persian Wars. In the Strategic Leadership Course we survey civil-military relations from World War II to the present. In addition, during the Implementing National Military Strategy Course, I provide specific instruction to my seminar on the current capabilities and roles of the U.S. Army. To a great extent, my expertise on the U.S. Army has been built upon my years of study of the history of that Army, which include my eight years under Professor Russell Weigley at Temple.
In addition to my work with a resident seminar, I participate in a variety of other duties. In the spring, I serve as one of three seminar lead instructors for the Campaign Analysis Course that surveys military campaigns from antiquity to the present. I provide the Roman Way of War overview lecture to all three seminars in which I analyze the Roman conduct of counterinsurgencies in Germany and Judea during the 1st Century. Three times a year I provide a presentation on Army capabilities to the Joint Force Land Component Commanderís Course conducted at Carlisle for fifteen specially selected General Officers. Similarly, I serve as the principal instructor on landpower and Army doctrine for our resident course Advanced Strategic Art Program and for the Strategists Program conducted for majors at Carlisle twice a year. In addition, I conduct annual presentations on the Armyís new Modular Force during the non-resident Distance Education Course summer phase and for our forty Senior Service College Fellows attending year-long courses at other institutions in lieu of attendance here.
During the course of my duties at Carlisle I have prepared several documents that involve history. In 1996 I conceived of a Joint Force Land Component Command Primer that detailed the history and functions of land focused commands since World War II. This pamphlet was the basis for subsequent Army and Joint doctrine and has been used by the Canadian Staff College. As the Director, Army Planning, I developed and continually update an Army Employment Data Pamphlet that is used not only at Carlisle, but also at the Air War College, the Naval War College, and the Joint Forces Staff College. In partnership with Mike Matheny, another Temple graduate student, we edited and compiled a special text for use at the War College describing and presenting a collection of American War Plans from pre-World War II to Operation DESERT STORM. In 2003 I prepared a monograph detailing the Army Component of Central Commandís functions during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and leading up to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
Due to my expertise on Army structure and doctrine I was personally selected to perform as a member of the Army Chief of Staff's Task Force Modularity from September 2003 through March 2005. On that task force I participated as the lead designer for transforming the Army from a division-based to a brigade-based organization. I relied upon all of my past education and knowledge of the history of the U.S. Army as well as my personal experience of over thirty years of Army service to develop and justify the rationale for one of the greatest changes in the U.S. Armyís structure. After the formal termination of the Task Force I have continued to provide advice to the Department of the Army for requirements and resource decisions concerning the Modular Force. Presently, I am assisting with the design for the additional units that the Army will gain as part of an announced 65,000 person increase.
In all that I do at the Army War College or for the U.S. Armed Forces I perform better because I am a military historian. While I am not a member of a traditional university history department, I employ my love and knowledge of history in a wide variety of ways to motivate students to appreciate history and to solve practical problems.